After a career that has spanned five decades, Egypt's legendary Omar El-Sharif is officially retiring at the age of 83. The actor's family has reported that he has Alzheimer’s disease, which has been affecting the legend's memory.
“My father has Alzheimer's. It's difficult to determine what stage it's at," Sharif’s son, Tarek El-Sharif, told the Spanish newspaper El Mundo on Saturday. "It's obvious he'll never improve and it will get worse."
Sharif’s acting career started in 1954 on the set of “Sira’ Fil Wadi” (Struggle in the Valley), which was directed by late veteran Youssef Chahin and costarred Faten Hamama, who would become Sherif's wife.
Although his early years in cinema, between 1954 and 1961, were quite rich in memorable roles for the Egyptian silver screen, Sharif’s worldwide popularity only took off after landing the supporting role in "Lawrence of Arabia" as the princely Sherif Ali, with Peter O’Toole starring as Lawrence. Sherif later recalled the time the duo spent together, saying that they were like brothers .
From that point on, Sherif’s fan base grew way beyond his homeland of Egypt.
But after battling Alzheimer’s for three years, the great cinema icon started to find his acting career a bit hazy and he often becomes confused as to why people are greeting him in public places.
“He knows who he is but not necessarily the reason people greet him,” his son told the Spanish paper. “When someone sees him in the street and approaches him, he often thinks it's someone he used to know whose name and face he's forgotten, when most of the time, it's just a fan.”
"The loss of memory affects above all specific things, details like when he was in a specific places or who he acted with in a specific film."
But according to his son, Sharif’s memory impairment didn’t just affect his recollection of the roles he played, but much of his personal life as well. He would often inquire about Tarek’s mother Hamama, who passed away earlier in January.
The Golden Globe winner – a total of three times, twice his role in "Lawrence of Arabia" and once for his role in "Doctor Zhivago" – may be at the mercy of a relentless illness, but he retires leaving behind a legacy that is valued by cinema enthusiasts around the world.